If you’re a Doherty of origin, you could have a link to one of the great sculptors of Ireland or even Riverdance.

Variants: O’Doherty, Ó Dochartaigh

This common Irish surname has its origins in the north of the country, from County Donegal, where it is still most prevalent and holds a strong connection. Today, however, this widespread family name now has an estimated 140 different variations in spelling and can be found all across the globe.

As direct descendants of Cennfaeladgh, Prince of Tryconnell around 800 AD, it’s thought the surname Dochartaigh was bestowed upon his great-grandson, christened Dónal. The name is generally regarded to mean "The Destroyer" or "Obstructive," and Dónal is said to have earned the moniker for his bravery in battle.

Quite apart from his talents on the battlefield, Dónal was first in his family to take a surname, and his own grandson, Donach, was in turn first to have taken Ó to his name (as was customary).

The Doherty family crest.

The Doherty family crest.

Over years, variations in original spelling have seen a Scots version of Docherty, and an Irish version O’Dogherty, which appeared first in around 1600.

Variations found in the U.S. include Daugherty, Daugheetee (found in West Virginia Mountains), and Daughtry, as used in Deep South and Western parts. Today most common spelling is anglicized Doherty in Ireland, and the name is still most commonly found on Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal.

Dohertys of note in modern times include former World Champion snooker player Ken Doherty, or ‘Crafty Ken’ as he is known for his cautious tactics during play, and renowned sculptor Eamonn O’Doherty. His most famous public works have included Anna Livia Fountain (a.ka. Floozy in Jacuzzi) formerly on Dublin’s O’Connell Street, Emigrants on Waterloo Place, Derry, and Crann an Oirr (Tree of Gold) outside Dublin’s Central Bank.

It is also the surname of the co-founder of Irish dance show phenomenon Riverdance, Moya Doherty. A former RTÉ (Irish television) producer, Moya and her husband John, director of leading television production company Tyrone, produced the original television and theatrical production and she is now said to be one of Ireland’s richest businesswomen.

Across the Atlantic, Shannen Doherty of Beverly Hills 90210 fame was back on American television screens in 2010, in a series of reality show Dancing With Stars.

Do you have a Doherty in your life? Make sure to share the origins of their name with them. 

* Originally published on Ireland of the Welcomes in July 2013.